How to boost goal setting through the WOOP system
If there is one goal setting strategy that wins them all with its name then it has to be WOOP! The name implies fun and is catchy. WOOP however is based on strong science combining the outstanding work done by the psychologists Professor Gabriele Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer.
The application and success of WOOP has been seen and much published across the world. Indeed some argue that WOOP has brought to goal setting what SMART did many years ago via George Doran.
In most leadership environments, managers are made familiar with the model of goal setting through SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound), I prefer the SMARTER method which simply builds on SMART to add Enjoyable/Ethical, Rewarding/Review (see my prior blog post)
WOOP is also an acronym and can be broken to each step element as Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. The main purpose is to generate behavior change through positive habits and identify a wished future state or outcome. The team effort by Gabriele Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer identified two steps in the full process of implementation. Firstly, the Wish, Outcome, Obstacle addresses mental contrasting whilst Peter Gollwitzer’s addition of implementation intentions completes the Plan element and full WOOP model.
The WOOP strategy brings the participant and stakeholders through the below steps:
1) Wish: A feasible end result is to be defined (Also identifies the “What” i.e. end goal)
To understand what is feasible may be a challenge within a business environment. For sales and marketing or other areas there may not be sufficient information to set the end result correctly. To address the power of motivation with stakeholders, tolerance and honesty is important when stating the wish.
2) Outcome: Define and understand the future state once gained (Identifies the “why”)
Some management consultants advise new leadership boards of directors to run through a “dream board meeting”, a future state set 5 years in advance when each member is complimented on their work and they run through the outstanding results and transformations taken.
3) Obstacle: Identify the leading hurdles, bottleneck areas, challenges (Provides a “When” within the process of risk or potential stop points)
This is a great reality check for the goal process. Consider all the variables i.e. Business trade cycles, legislation changes, key personnel changes, competency levels and risk management points that can become head winds to the task ahead.
4) Plan: Establishes the behaviors to be taken when facing an obstacle (Provides the “How”).
The plan is to be broken down to the key steps, milestones and tasks. The use of a good project management system can help depending on the complexity of the goal set.
In the same way that I have described of the JAMSO preferred SMARTER goal setting system, I also advise to add the ER to your WOOP = WOOPER
Enjoyable / Ethical: Staff engagement levels are at shockingly low figures, therefore a good reminder to companies and leaders is toreview the set goals and explore how to make sure they match the ethical values of the business culture and are made as enjoyable as possible for the stakeholders.
Rewarding / Review: Rewarding work through recognition or other motivation leadership tools is important to retain the motivation of staff members from cross departmental disciplines who may not at first have the same priority to support your goal. The need to review your progress and external effects is an important mechanism. This step helps you understand if new resources are needed when new obstacles arise that had not been considered during the original goal setting process.
The purpose for my unique addition of ER in WOOPER is to ensure communication and understanding of how these areas link to goals more openly. By highlighting them as separate steps in the model it will improve the consistency of goal setting design and potential employee engagement.
The simplicity of WOOP has helped its implementation and global success as a fantastic methodology. From my experience, the “PLAN” section requires more thoughts and time than I often see at clients. The “PLAN” section creates process action and helps mitigate against risk, motivation, helps create a definite process resource and most importantly the speed in which obstacles are addressed and overcome.
Research by Peter Gollwitzer addressed the implementation intentions within the WOOP model. This important element develops a part accountability and action plan to the goal process. A risk management and behavior “if faced with situation x then do action y” process flow empowered actions. Within a business I suggest this key element can avoid future need for leadership/management resources in decision making as the high risks and agreed actions are already agreed upon.
Gabriele Oettingen ensures the Wish, Outcome and Obstacle steps explore the reality behind any stretched or unrealistic goal. This was created by her work in 2001 to create a mental contrasting strategy and tool. The three mechanisms her work focused on for behavior change was the cognitive, motivational changes and responses to negative feedback.
The system works for personal and business models and has also gained great acclaim within the academic community regardless of culture or social backgrounds. If you seek a positive change then WOOP may just give you the extra step you seek. If you seek a competitive edge over organizations that have implemented WOOP or seek to bring it to the next level, try my WOOPER process.
For the next goal you seek to create try the WOOP or my adapted WOOPER method. The process is simple enough and can be explained and implemented very simply. You may find the benefits with employee engagement and improved project planning will soon act as leading examples for improved performance.
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Further Information on WOOP
Visit the WOOP website
Gabriele Oettingen YouTube presentation on Rethinking Positive Thinking (12 minutes)
Peter Gollwitzer: Planning promotes goal striving
Slideshare explaining the link of GROW and WOOP goal setting